Burnout is a Battle & Here’s How You Can Win
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
-Howard Thurman, author, philosopher & civil right leader
Morning sunlight streams through partially raised, white fabric blinds. The glorious glow illuminates two flourishing, potted plants suspended from the ceiling by macramé knots reminiscent of a bygone era. Amidst the serene scene, Dr. Naveed Ahmad smiles warmly into the camera, inviting a shared moment of tranquility. Dr. Ahmad is the co-founder and CEO of Flourish, an organization dedicated to human potential—and the never-ending battle against burnout.
The mission of Flourish is framed simply. “Unfortunately, in today’s society, ‘busy = important’ and pulling all-nighters is considered a badge of honor. Life is, more often than not, characterized by feeling stressed, overwhelmed and out of our control. But things don’t have to be this way.”
Do you agree?
I caught up with Naveed for a conversation about burnout and how to battle back. “The root cause of work-related burnout is less about where you are, or what you do,” he explains, “and more about how you feel about where you are and what you do.”
Which of these situations describes your own? What is the expansion you need, for the restriction you are feeling right now? Here’s what Naveed says:
Sunday Scaries: By Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m., you begin to dread Monday. And you spend the evening planning so you are ready for your jam-packed week ahead.
Snooze addiction: The blaring sound of your alarm goes off across the room, and you go to retrieve it. Only to go back to bed. Repeat the cycle 9 minutes later. Then 18 minutes. Then 27 minutes later.
Increased consumption: This manifests as the Netflix binge, eating that extra pint of ice cream, increasing consumption of caffeine.
Planning your escape: You research a cabin to get away to but have no plans of actually making the trip a reality. You fantasize about just getting in the car and driving aimlessly.
Sharp weight changes: You unexpectedly gain or lose ten pounds in the course of a month.
Counting the minutes: You look at the clock, and literally count the minutes until the end of a meeting or the day.
Can you relate?
Perhaps it’s time to press pause. And to ponder how to release obligations that no longer serve you to make room for the people and experiences that do. The people and experiences that add to your energy, rather than deplete it.
In Working From Home, I introduced a four-part question sequence to help evaluate your involvement with any person, project, meeting, or objective. A way to reclaim lost time and to battle burnout:
Does it have to be?
Does it have to be me?
Does it have to be right now?
Does it have to be a meeting?
If item 4 resonates with you, then it’s time to become more intentional about what makes meetings meaningful. When I’m “doing” another useless meeting, I find myself looking for meaning. And battling back-to-back meeting burnout. Do you follow me?
Opportunity cost means opportunity lost. What if there was a way you could connect, and collaborate without losing more than you gain?
Game Changer: Create More Facetime in Less Time
Many meetings are about facetime with a perceived person of influence. Whether the meeting is with your boss to demonstrate how hard you’re working or with a client who could retire your quota for the quarter.
What would change if you could have more face time in less time?
Build this into your blueprint: asynchronous voice and video recordings.
Think about one person (or group of people) with whom you want more face time. Or one meeting you would like to remove or replace. You can even select one meeting from next week’s calendar. What’s the key message you want to convey? What’s the desired outcome of your interaction? Write down a few bullet points.
Record a video. Keep the video to two- or three-minutes max. View the video. Re-record the video. That’s right, One-Take Jake: do it twice. It will always be better the second time around. Especially if you watch it. You have to have the courage to see the cracks!
Craft a simple message with a link to your video (test your link before you hit send!). Some of my favorite email lines that get people excited are:
o “To give you time back…”
o “To make it easy to connect without scheduling a meeting…”
o “This two-minute video is an overview of the new idea we’ve been discussing…”
o “This is not a TikTok video (since I’m a terrible dancer—but, as you know, I’m working on it!”).
Cancel the meeting.
Repeat with another meeting.
More facetime in less time works well for recognition, thank-you notes, weekly project status updates, weekly team messages and quick touch base moments with customers. Try it and you’ll see. As an added bonus, your recipients will appreciate your respect of their time.
You’ve probably realized by now that the future of work starts inside of you. Focusing on freedom helps you play a new kind of game. Sometimes that means challenging old beliefs, old norms, and habits. Even meeting habits. You have the freedom to choose.
What we are architecting here is autonomy. Whether hybrid mode, working from home or working from the core office, choice is always available. Always.